Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it, and she hasn’t regretted a moment.
She writes YA under the name Patricia Lynne, and I met her on Twitter during #StoryDam chats. Here’s her take on writing the ending of her latest book:
I’m a panster, so when I write, I don’t have an outline or even a plan for the story. What starts me is a character or a scene that excites me and I can’t get it out of my head fast enough. I start writing with zero direction. That often means I have no idea how to end the story. I don’t figure it out until I’m there, staring at the screen, and wondering how to save the day.
The ending to Mistakes of the Past went through quite a few different versions before I finally got it right. Luc went from three chances at redemption to one, back to three, then finally one. There was a sex scene, but that got axed. Another scene moved from one location to another. Parts got cut, then added back in and adjusted to fit. Whole elements I researched were discarded. Even lines I loved didn’t make the final cut.
It was quite the evolution. Sometimes you have to fight to get it right, to find the perfect resolution that readers love. I hope this ending is one that readers will enjoy. At the very least, I enjoy the ending. That’s got to be a good sign, right?
There’s a lot to unpack in this answer.
- What strikes your spark? Is it a first line, a character, or a scene? Does it talk to you until you have to get it down or is it fleeting? Do you carry a notebook or use your phone to capture these story-starters?
- Are you comfortable with letting your spark lead you around for awhile, knowing you might have to cut and paste and edit to get the story pared down to a manageable meander? Or, do you have to have a path and structure before you start putting a lot of words on the paper?
- If you are a complete pantser, do you ever abandon projects because you can’t tug your skirts straight or because you can’t find your way to the end? (This is a large part of why I’ve started combining both methods. I have too many projects left unfinished or with holes I can’t fill.)
- Have you mastered ‘killing your darlings’? This is a big one, and I think a real sign of growth in a writer. Sometimes, you can’t even see that something needs to go until three beta-readers later and a stack of rejections. (Hint: recycle! I have a folder where I keep EVERY word I’ve ever cut.)
- Please note, wrestling/fighting/cutting. Getting to a final version of a story is often a battle. Take care of yourself. Reward the effort. Find comrades. And don’t give up!